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Centre’s family secrets

Royalty, murderers and prostitutes have been brought to life at a Bognor Regis centre.


The diverse range of characters have resulted from the research carried out by the Laburnum Centre’s family history enthusiasts.


The group of up to 20 individuals helps members of the centre uncover the lives of their ancestors through censuses and birth certificates.


It takes just a name, a birthday and a birthplace – and the hunt into the past can begin.


Margaret Petzold, 81, the group’s assistant organiser, said: “All those things a person has been told about their family, they will find out are not true.


“Someone has found they are descended from William III, another person is a descendant of Guy Fawkes and we have uncovered murderers, lunatics and prostitutes. It’s absolutely fascinating once you get hooked.”


The group’s organiser, Brian Ayres, 83, has traced his family back to the 1670s, just after the English Civil War.


He said: “It’s not just about how far back you can go. It can help you find out about history. It puts the name into the context of history. You start researching the period, such as the reign of Charles II, and you get a good idea of what was going on.”


The group meets from 10.30am-12.30pm on Fridays at the centre in Lyon Street and again in the afternoon.


The morning session involves helping newcomers and those unsure of using online information to get to grips with the research.


Once that has been established, they use the later meetings to carry out their own research. This is helped by the centre’s access to a family history website and its large database of information.


Jenny Timoney, 77, used her delving into the past to uncover her family’s French roots.


“They came over with the Huguenots from France. Quite a few of them were shipwrecked on a beach in north Cornwell. They were from Mablet but that was corrupted in this country to the name Mably, and those name changes happen a lot.”

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